My kids saw me cry right there in the middle of the kitchen

weakness and openness
Oh Lord, would you put fresh mercy in this hand today…

I felt the stick of dried milk on my elbow, and I had bite marks on my shoulder from my curious and teething toddler’s last embrace.

The words being thrown around my kitchen table bit down even deeper than those new little teeth.

My ears were stinging with it – not just with the noise, though it had gotten quite loud, but with the dissonance of sharp arguments and overly enthusiastic tattling and defiant disrespect.  My disgust with it all was apparent on my furrowed brow, and it only made my little ones agog to load me up to the brim and see what spilled out.

It was one of our last days of summer, right before starting back to school last week — I was eager to love it.  Anxious to soak it up.  Desperate for slow.  Staunchly committed to having fun together.

But my children have this innocently prodigious way of stripping me right down to the bare bones of myself, where I can only hope some grace and Jesus spills out of my weakness, instead of the repugnance I feel on my skin.

Perhaps you can relate, friend?

Someone was mad at me and wouldn’t tell me why.  Another one didn’t like any of the ideas, and didn’t want to go anywhere.  Another had packed the bags and lined the shoes and was waiting at the door for some grand adventure.  Oh, and everyone was hungry, of course, though breakfast had yet to be cleared.  And an overwhelmed and very upset child screamed at me one too many times about how I just don’t get it and I don’t even care, and finally all I could muster in response was a handful of tears.

These are the broken moments of which I am sometimes so very afraid.  It’s funny how I don’t want to show them my weakness – I hold it back like some secret Kryptonite, as if my children are the enemy, and to reveal it would surely be the death of me.

But there’s this beauty in the broken place.  I didn’t mean to go there, and I won’t hurry back, but when we break, there’s a beautiful thing that can happen…

 

When we break through to the raw place, instead of covering it up with anger or bitterness, we see the true longings of our heart.  When we break, there is a thing ready to be healed.  When we break, walls come down and we bust open to mercy.  When we break, we become soft.  And though a soft heart is more easily wounded, it is also more ready to love and receive love, forgive and receive forgiveness, delight and be delighted in.

 

And knowing our need allows us the receive the healing touch of Christ, who said ”It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…”

 

This broken moment last week gave my children the opportunity to see that their words affect me and were fracturing our relationship — it invited them to look around and see who else was affected.  They wanted to stop and reevaluate how the words they were using with their most important people.  We had a chance to recognize that we need help to love one another better, and it left them looking for the Source of Love.

 

I stooped low.  We huddled up.  We prayed for a fresh start.  We gave and received grace.  God met us.  And it was sweet.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34: 18). None of us want heartbreak, disappointment, overwhelm.  None of us go looking for something to crush our spirit.  And yet, time and again these are the places where God meets me.

 

This crushing moment led us to the throne of grace.  

 

I’m not saying that you should cry in front of your children, as a method of showing them their need for Jesus.  No.  We have a responsibility to remain steady and consistent, and mostly predictable, to provide peace and stability for our children.

And yet, in our weakness, Christ is strong.  So let’s also not be afraid of being in over our heads.  Let’s not be afraid to admit to the Lord and to each other, mamas, when our day has nearly flattened us.

 

Let’s lean our pain, our struggle, our weariness into the chest of God, that He might wrap us in a healing embrace.  And when we fail… let’s trust God with the hearts of our children, too.  I was afraid that my accidental tears may have burdened them, but as we gave God our broken morning, He exchanged it for joy.

We don’t have to feign strength when we know the Source.  We are free to draw close and honest to the heart of God, with our children… to pray gently for them when they are struggling to use kind words, to shepherd them when they have failed to disobey, to apologize to them when we’ve been wrong, and we can usher in to watch God’s healing work.

When our heart fails within us, may we gather up the presence of God as our portion, our strength. (Psalm 73: 26)

When we are weary, may we climb into the lap of our Father God, trusting that he can give strength to our hearts, and renewal to our bodies. (Isaiah 40: 29, Matthew 11: 28)

When we are hopeless, and fear that nothing we are doing will amount to anything, may we place our hope in the Lord.  May we soar on wings like eagles, tireless and full of life. (Isaiah 40: 31)

When we long to just be better, stronger, more whole…may we hear God say to our hearts “My grace is sufficient.”  May we boast in our weakness, that Christ’s power may be great in us. (2 Corinthians 12: 9)

Sometimes I put too much weight on keeping it “together” with my kids.  Steadiness, consistency is a big deal in parenting.  I’m a believer in it, and I fight for it daily.  But it’s not THE thing.   I’m tempted to become robotic when I’m trying to muster up patience, and avoid yelling.

But today, I’m proclaiming out loud that the thing I want most is to be on my knees before Christ himself.  I’d rather be soft than cold.  I’d rather be accessible then impenetrable.  I’d rather exhibit heartbreak than calculated control.

Openness requires faith because it leaves us vulnerable.  It requires faith that God’s grace is enough when we let our hearts be hurt.

But openness can lead us to genuine need and true dependence on the Lord.  It can leads us to authentic heart connection with our God and with our children.  We have an opportunity to draw close.  We have an opportunity to pray.  And our children have an opportunity to feel our veracious and loving investment in their hearts and our relationship with them.

Today, I’m choosing to be unafraid of my weakness.  Today, I’m choosing to trust that God’s mercy can cover my failure, my disappointment, my inadequacy.

 

I’m choosing to believe that I can let my walls of fear and self-protection come down, and take up the shield of faith, as the only defense I need. (Ephesians 6: 16)

 

Psalm 73: 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  

Habbakuk 3: 19  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. 

2 Corinthians 12: 10  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

 

When you dread the question: “What did you do today?” (Part 2)

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“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 

1 Corinthians 15: 58

I have always loved being productive and efficient.  I have spent a lot of my life living for results.  I love checking things off of a To Do list. I love Excel sheets and organized desks and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a productive day.  I love taking steps that feel linear and progressive. I love large gatherings, the sounds of laughter filling my home.  I love making friends and building connection, deep conversation, and the feeling that I might have made a difference in someone’s life.  Whatever the form, I love visible, tangible, see it, taste it, touch it results.

I think we all do, to some extent.

We are built to create beauty and innovation, in the image of the One who made us.  This beautiful drive is set in us to partner with God in something bigger than ourselves.

What I never knew is what would happen to me when all of the visible was stripped away. I never knew what it would feel like to work all day and have a list longer than when I started, and to fail to explain how the minutes and hours evaporated.

I never knew what it would feel like to work tirelessly and never see the bottoms of my hampers.  I didn’t know the feeling of picking up the toys only to find them dumped in the next room.  I hadn’t felt the sting of giving everything away, to be told I’m the worst mom ever or that I just don’t care at all (this was just today).  I never knew about sweeping and mopping endlessly, only to find sticky and littered floors when my husband walks in the door.  Walking around all day not knowing I had spit up on my shoulder, and feeling so unbelievably insignificant.  I never knew about struggling through a trip to the grocery store only to encounter eye rolls and annoyed glances from passersby.

 

Getting to the end of the day without having accomplished anything I can name, and having no idea what kept me so busy – it can make me feel so small.

 

I never knew how much of me could be spent in completely invisible spaces, bandaging the boo-boo, holding and praying over the child with the nightmare, making all the lunches in those special ways, rocking the baby, changing the wet sheets, folding the clothes, going to appointments, loading the dishwasher, wiping the bottoms, breaking up the arguments, teaching and training and guiding in the ways of relationship and reconciliation, buckling and unbuckling and rebuckling the seatbelts, cleaning the kitchen over and over and over and over, and shepherding the hearts in all of the in-between spaces that will add up to a childhood.

 

I never knew how incredibly uncomfortable I would feel in my skin without tangible successes and accomplishments to show for my days.

 

Several years ago, this experience turned me inside out.

 

My husband, Mike, and I had just left our home in Kansas City, with thriving lives and work and ministry and friendship, pregnant with our third child, to move to Durham, North Carolina for Mike to attend business school.  My calendar, which had been bubbling over with color-coded activity from 5am until 10pm most days, with a personal training business and a high school ministry, children’s activities and social gatherings… transformed overnight to completely, entirely, alarmingly blank.

 

I stared over my bulging tummy into the adorable faces of a three- and a one-year-old child and thought my life was all but over.  I was wild about these little people of mine, blessed beyond words to be their mom.  And I had no idea how to “just” be their mama.  I felt that I had lost myself, and suddenly I was forced to believe that I mattered even when no one over three feet tall could see me.

 

I wanted to defend myself over the mess I had tried to clean, the chaos I had tried to pacify, the child I had tried to discipline…despite the appearance that I had sat on my behind all day.  I wanted to be understood, to vindicate myself and scream to the world that there was more to me than diapers.  I wanted my children to behave and speak kindly so that the world could see what I’ve taught them.  I simultaneously wanted to prove that I had a brain and questioned that it still worked.  I wanted to change the world and just wanted a shower.  I adored my children, and never took a day for granted that I got to stay home with them, but I suddenly had no idea who I was or what I was doing.

And I abruptly forgot how to make friends because the first question out of everyone’s mouth is “What do you do?”

 

Despite feeling like my dreams were coming true…

Despite the desire and gratitude for the ability to stay home…

Despite knowing that so many other moms would love to be in my shoes…

Despite feeling abundant and undeserved blessing…

 

Despite all of that, I found myself squirming and wincing at the words “I stay at home with my kids.”  Suddenly, all the lines were blurred, and who I am felt mixed up with what I do and the busyness of my schedule and my perceived relevance to the rest of the world.

 

In that season, I faced this ugly underbelly of my heart where I was silently desperate to be important and known and respected and appreciated and needed.

 

I cried out to God, begging him to give me purpose and identity and clarity about it all…begging him to show me where to invest, to let me use my gifts.

And in this one simple desperate prayer, he gently offered me this…

Sweet one, be faithful with what you have been given.  Be poured out here.  Whatever gifts you are longing to use, give them all away right here, where only I can see.  Whatever you feel you are capable of doing, do it here with the ones I’ve entrusted to you.  Trust me with the offering.

Painfully simply, God told me in the quiet of my heart that as I love the least of these within my four walls, I was loving Him.  Be faithful as I am faithful.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 40

He gradually and gracefully extended my reach beyond my home, but my eyes for what I’m doing with my children are new.

I come back to this truth over and over that in God’s upside down Kingdom, my children are completely and totally deserving of the the very best of me.

The parts I used to use to impress a boss.  The parts of me I used to make money or to try to create something beautiful.  When my children are the ones in front of my face, I can pour it all out to them, knowing that the eyes of the Father are on me.

And in that moment, my offering could be better spent no where in the world.
Maybe someday, I will have the opportunity to do a great thing, by the standards of the world.  Or maybe not.  But for today, I will heed the words of the lovely Mother Teresa…

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Give it all away right where you are, Mama.  Your toil is not in vain.

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12: 1

If you missed Part 1 of this post, you can check it out here.